By Anne Brown, MD
Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is upon us, and beyond that is the mad dash to Christmas. I think I speak for many Moms in that we enter the season with hopes of beautiful decorations, fancy cookies, holiday events to enjoy, and a time to be with everyone whom we love. Unfortunately, implementing this beautiful and calm vision can turn into a stressful time of too much to do, less sleep, and several extra pounds. By the time the big day rolls around, we are often exhausted and frazzled by what we had to accomplish to pull off a successful holiday for our families.
Here are a few tips on how to avoid the holiday craze:
Tip number one is to take care of yourself. This does not have to mean time consuming bubble baths, weekly massages, or a spa weekend (this can come after the holiday!) Simple pleasures such as a five minute period to sit and stretch, a few gentle yoga poses before bed, or having a cup or tea (try leaning into the warm steam) can go a long way toward relaxation. Remember to try and walk a little bit every day – whether that is parking further away or sneaking out for 5 minutes at lunchtime. Stealing a couple of minutes of fresh air every day will provide rejuvenation. If you exercise regularly, and are worried about the seasonal time crunch, try to only cut back by a day or two or shorten your routine rather than giving it up for the holidays.
Tip number two is to maintain healthy eating. When I started to study nutrition, my family was afraid I would banish the sweets and treats of the holidays. Since real change is most effective when gradual, I added moderation and modification to the holiday food extravaganza. Instead of indulging in cookies/fudge/and various holiday sweets every day for several weeks, we limit sugar to a couple days a week. On those days, my daughters take everything out of the tins and load it onto a big platter. We then carefully select our favorites to mindfully enjoy the tastes and uniqueness of these holiday treats. On the other days, we try to come up with fun healthy deserts: cutting oranges into circles and placing drops of yogurt then raisins on them (to look like ornaments) or cutting a pear in half, and dusting it with a little confectionary sugar (snow on trees). This is the perfect time to exercise your creativity and create holiday themes out of fruits and vegetables.
Tip number three is deep breathing. The act of breathing into our bellies, trigger a response in our bodies that is relaxing. Singing is a great way to do this. Once Thanksgiving is past, my daughters and I sing Christmas Carols and holiday songs in the car everywhere we go and in the kitchen while cooking. This is a blast and tradition we cherish.
My final tip is to find a way to stop a few times every day, take a deep breath and focus on your senses. Use a few holiday items as reminders. This is a fun thing to do with kids – they love to move a couple holiday decorations around and are masters of noticing what they see, smell, hear, or feel at the moment.
To me, the things that make the holidays really special are the traditions we develop and follow year after year. Kids love routine and by creating an environment where mindful and healthy traditions flourish, not only are we enhancing our own enjoyment of the holidays, but we are also giving our children the gift of relaxation and health.
Dr. Brown is a physician at St. Mary’s Medical Associates. She earned her medical degree from the University of Vermont and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr Brown did her mind-body training through the Benson Henry Institute at Massachusetts General, and she finishes her fellowship in integrative medicine through the University of Arizona in December 2014. Dr. Brown offers mind body groups for stress reduction and will be offering integrative medicine consults starting in January 2015.